The New Farm Bill
As most people are aware, the Agricultural Act of 2014, known to many as the "2014 farm bill" was passed by Congress and now USDA is working to implement the programs provided by the legislation. We are regularly hearing from Saline County farmers wondering if there is anything they need to enroll in now and how soon the new programs will be available.
While not all of the programs authorized by the farm bill are being implemented immediately, there are some enrollments going on right now producers will be interested in.
Currently, livestock producers will want to visit their FSA office to enroll in the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). LFP provides compensation for grazing losses sustained back to Oct. 1, 2011. However, Saline County only qualifies for LFP in 2012 and a brief period in 2013. County eligibility for the program is linked to the US Drought Monitor. To apply, livestock producers need to provide the number of livestock they owned during the time period they are applying for; most likely, their inventory in May of 2012 and July of 2013.
LIP provides compensation to producers who suffered livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality which were caused directly by an adverse weather event. This program is also retroactive to Oct. 1, 2011.
Additionally, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) is part of the new farm bill. ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish who have losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires. ELAP assistance is provided for losses not covered by LFP and LIP. Producers who suffered eligible livestock, honeybee or farm-raised fish losses during 2012 and 2013 program years must submit a notice of loss and application for payment to their local FSA office by Aug. 1. For 2014 program year losses, the notice of loss and an application for payment must be submitted by Nov. 1.
Orchardists and nursery tree growers who experienced losses from natural disasters that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011, can sign up for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
Eligible tree types include trees, bushes or vines that produce an annual crop for commercial purposes. Nursery trees include ornamental, fruit, nut and Christmas trees that are produced for commercial sale. Trees used for pulp or timber are ineligible.
To qualify for TAP, orchardists must suffer a qualifying tree, bush or vine loss in excess of 15 percent mortality from an eligible natural disaster. The eligible trees, bushes or vines must have been owned when the natural disaster occurred; however, eligible growers are not required to own the land on which the eligible trees, bushes and vines were planted.
A few programs have been eliminated by the new farm bill.
The Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program were discontinued by the new legislation. The direct payment, centered on a farm's base acres, is also eliminated. Although, those who participated in the ACRE program for the 2013 crop year must still report their production by July 15. Failure to do so could result in loss of the ACRE direct payment they have already received. Following the end of the 2013 crop marketing year in the fall of 2014, the ACRE program will be wrapped up.
Also eliminated was the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) Program. This program provided compensation for revenue losses.
The farm bill offers two new options for producers in place of DCP and ACRE. However, neither of these options includes a direct payment. Producers will choose between the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. At this time, USDA is still working on the regulations for ARC and PLC, making it impossible for me to provide any detailed information at this time. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said publicly that he expects producers will be updating their yields and base acres this summer/fall, with sign-up for 2014 and 2015 occurring by the end of the year. Though total base acres will not increase, we anticipate producers will be able to move existing base acres between crops.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was continued under the new farm bill. However, FSA offices have not been authorized to enroll any new contracts at this time; continuous or general. The national acreage ceiling will decrease to 24 million acres by 2018. Additionally, certain CRP practices are expected to be offered an "early-out" in 2015.
As official information becomes available regarding the new farm bill programs, FSA will work diligently to keep producers informed. The best way to stay up-to-date with FSA program information is by enrolling in FSA eAlerts. This free service provides instant updates by text message or email. To enroll, simply contact your local FSA office.
If you have questions about any FSA program, please stop by the office at 704 N. Miami Avenue in Marshall, call 660.886.7447, extension 2 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jared Singer is Director of USDA's Farm Service Agency office serving Saline County.